Report to the 75th General Assembly of the IAPA

October 4 – 7, 2019

Coral Gables, Florida

In this period there persisted threats against and dangers to the practice of journalism, a situation that resulted in the murder of journalist Édgar Aguilar on August 31.

Aguilar, correspondent of Canal 6 television, was killed in the municipality of La Entrada, Copán department, in the full light to daytime when he was in a barbershop having his hair cut. It is still unknown who killed him and the motives.

Currently there are 29 journalists under the General Direction of the System of Protection for male and female defenders of human rights, journalists, social communicators and providers of justice.

On the positive side, the National Congress revised in the new Penal Code all the articles relative to offenses against honor that criminalized and punished with imprisonment and fines the exercise of freedom of expression. Offenses of defamation will be tried in civil courts.

President Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado has not responded nor reacted to the petition of various sectors for amendment of the "Law for the Classification of Public Documents Related to Security and National Defense," due to the fact that the "Law on Secrecy," as it is popularly known, violates the right to access to public information and the principle of transparency.

The Law on Official Secrets, approved on January 24, 2014, is considered an obstacle to access to public information, as it is armor-plated with information that is reserved, confidential, secret and highly secret, with 5, 10 and up to 25 years, the information regarding more than 20 ministries and government offices.

The new Penal Code, which the Chairman of the Legislative Branch promised to revise, has dispositions that could be used to prosecute, restrain and criminalize social protest, with punishments much stronger than for other offenses of greater seriousness, such as drug trafficking or money laundering. Also increased is the punishment for offenses of coercion and instigation to sedition, linked to rural conflicts and defense of natural resources.

There were monitored the terms and extent of the Law on Cyber Security, approved by the National Congress's Opinion Commission, because it could threaten online freedom of expression. It establishes measures to prevent acts of hatred and discrimination in social media and the Internet, but some articles can be restrictive of freedom of expression.

On the premise that on the Internet there are disseminated negative aspects such as the promotion of hatred and discrimination, the legislative proposal argues that it is imperative to implement a juridical mechanism to regulate the handling of information on social media, having to establish obligations for the owners or managers of websites.